Multiple national media outlets featured the National Auto Body Council’s (NABC) Recycled Rides program, including Fox News, CBS News, and ABC News, as former Patriots player Rob Gronkowski took part in a Recycled Ride event, presenting two veterans with a vehicle ahead of the Army-Navy college football game played at Gillette Stadium.
NABC started in the 1990s with a focus on advancing the image of the industry and promoting the repair community within it. As the industry changed and grew, so did the organization.
While still focused on serving smaller businesses, its membership expands to much larger corporate entities and companies that support the industry, such as technical schools and vendors.
Today, it’s common to see national media running a story about charity work the council funded.
Debby Robinson, NABC executive director, says the increasing attention is due to many changes made by the council in recent years.
Partnerships with other industry organizations, such as the United States Automobile Association (USAA), have helped increase NABC’s audience, Robinson said. USAA is the regular sponsor for the Army-Navy game.
“That puts us in front of sports and military fans,” Robinson said. “It helps us share our message more widely.”
USAA gave away 100 vehicles through the Recycled Rides program last year as part of its 100th anniversary. The program refurbishes and donates vehicles to those in need.
More than 3,200 vehicles valued at about $46 million have been donated to families since the program started in 2007.
Celebrity involvement with the NABC isn’t uncommon.
Josef Newgarden, winner of the 2023 Indianapolis 500, was the face of NABC’s Drive Out Distraction Program. The program aims to educate drivers about dangers, such as texting while driving.
Robinson said the celebrity endorsement was brought through the council’s partnership with PPG.
Partnerships are one part of why the council has a growing audience, Robinson said.
“We have expanded how we tell our story,” Robinson said. “Our social presence is much bigger.”
Robinson led marketing and public relations for the council as president of Victory Management Group before starting as the organization’s executive director in January. Her marketing portfolio included other clients in the auto industry.
“I was really the champion in changing how we told the story,” Robinson said. “I still keep my marketing hat on all the time.”
The story of a 44-year-old California man receiving a Recycled Rides vehicle made national headlines in September, Robinson said. It didn’t involve a celebrity but focused on a touching story.
“We really want to tell the story of the members we serve and how they are giving back to the community,” Robinson said.
The organization also keeps busy with an event nearly every day, she said. Each event helps give the council a more significant presence.
In addition to its Recycled Rides Program, the council runs the NABC First Responder Emergency Extrication Program. It trains first responders on how to respond to incidents involving late-model vehicles with lightweight, high-strength steel, sophisticated electronics, and multiple air bag systems.
Robinson said new programs that will bring additional attention are currently being developed. This includes a program that will give vehicles to foster children aging out of the system.
A Recycled Rides vehicle is seen prior to its unveiling at a National Auto Body Council Recycled Rides event on Nov. 6, 2019. (John Huetter/Repairer Driven News)